From Iceland — Reykjavik's Harpa: Director Gets Raise; Employees Pressured Into Taking Pay Cut

Reykjavik’s Harpa: Director Gets Raise; Employees Pressured Into Taking Pay Cut

Published May 3, 2018

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Shortly after awarding the director of the famed concert hall a significant pay rise, service employees were reportedly pressured into accepting a large cut in pay. A former employee who spoke with Fréttablaðið told reporters that it was a “take it or leave it” situation.

Fréttablaðið reported yesterday that Svanhildur Konráðsdóttir, the director of Harpa Concert Hall, had been awarded a pay rise of about 20% last year, taking her salary from 1.3 million ISK per month to 1.56 million ISK.

This news did not sit well with Örvar Blær Guðmundsson, a student who was working at Harpa at the time the story broke, as he and other employees had been pressured into taking a significant pay cut last September. After learning of the director’s rise, Örvar opted to quit.

Service employees at Harpa were informed that their wages for evening and weekend shifts would be cut by 12.7%; their day shift rates would be cut by 21.4%; and that there would be additional cuts made to on-call shift wages.

The employees were very displeased with the announcement and sought help from their labour union, VR. The employees made a counter-offer to management, who in turn made very minor concessions, “but otherwise it was just ‘take it or leave it’,” Örvar says.

The new contract, which took effect at the beginning of the year, saw overtime pay for employees with one year or more experience cut by about 8% and day wages cuts by 17%.

“This is of course comfortable work with school and most people accepted the contract,” Örvar told reporters. “Not happily, but after this news [of the director’s pay rise] broke, everything changed. I’ve spoken with the kids who were working with me and there’s a lot of anger going on there.”

Svanhildur confirmed for reporters that employees were not satisfied with the pay cut, “but I emphasise that this work is still ongoing and is not in any way over,” she said.

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